Hull City good vibes threatened as Ilicali copies Birmingham mistake, Rosenior becomes hot free agent

Lewis Oldham
Hull City Rosenior
Liam Rosenior and Acun Ilicali with Hull City's badge.

The good vibes have returned to Hull City but Acun Ilicali’s Birmingham City-esque rash decision to sack Liam Rosenior threatens to spoil all of that…


News of Liam Rosenior being sacked by Hull City was dishearteningly not a shock at all at the end of a Championship season marred by fresh-faced owners making errors while learning on the job and in search of immediate success.

Birmingham City’s unnecessary tinkering at board level contributed to their freefall towards final-day relegation on Saturday afternoon, while Huddersfield Town made a comedy of errors with a couple of manager appointments failing before they went down without putting up much of a fight in the final weeks of the season.

The two American-funded clubs are now preparing for life in League One, with relegation a worthy punishment for their respective misdemeanours.

Over at Hull City, they have a similarly ambitious owner as Turkish businessman Acun Ilicali took control of the Yorkshire outfit in January 2022 after having a brief year-long stint at Dutch side Fortuna Sittard.

Rosenior – who arrived in November 2022 – was Ilicali’s second managerial appointment after Shota Arveladze was dismissed with Hull City in fear of relegation.

The well-spoken Rosenior previously had a helpful learning experience with Derby County as a coach and then interim manager. This stood him in good stead for his first permanent job in management with Hull City.

Following their fall from the Premier League in 2017, most of the joy for Hull City supporters came during a single season following another relegation to League One as ex-boss Grant McMann masterminded promotion straight back to the Championship in 2021.

Before this season and barring their fun-filled season in League One, Hull had gotten too accustomed to the misery of being a club in the lurch towards the bottom of the Championship.

But after Ilicali got his first appointment wrong, Rosenior’s exit from Derby County allowed the owner to get the fans back onside by bringing in a beloved ex-player to lead the team.

Appointing Rosenior also had the added benefit of Hull City acquiring an up-and-coming coach who is well-regarded among his peers and 18 months in; it looked to be working a treat.

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Last season, Rosenior fitted in seamlessly as he successfully guided Hull City to safety as they finished 15th and 14 points clear of the bottom three.

Heading into this campaign, optimism was raised at Hull City for the first time in a long while, they were looking upwards rather than over their shoulders in the fight to avoid relegation.

The level of signings had taken a step up – especially with the arrival of Jaden Philogene from Aston Villa – so fans were gearing up for a tilt at the top half, while the more giddy supporters felt the bright lights of the Premier League were in sight with Hull viewed by some as dark horses for promotion.

Given the calibre of the teams coming down from the Premier League, a finish in the play-offs was always going to be Hull City’s ceiling this season. While they surpassed expectations to spend a good portion of the campaign in the top six, they missed out on the final day following a defeat to Plymouth Argyle, while Norwich City and West Brom qualified for the promotion lottery along with Leeds United and Southampton.

A seventh-place finish for Hull City at this stage of the season is far from a disaster and it certainly constitutes an above-par performance from a developing squad and manager, who had room to grow together heading into the summer and next season.

A long-term plan had looked to be in place for much of Rosenior’s spell at Hull City. He was rewarded for their strong start to this season in December and was backed by Ilicali, earning himself a three-year contract.

But suddenly, with Hull City’s season over sooner than Ilicali would have liked, such a plan has been thrown out of the window and Rosenior has been sacked just three days after the 2023/24 season ended.

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On the face of it, this appears like a rash call from an owner wanting too much too soon. He’s had his judgement blighted by unnecessarily raised expectations following a strong start to the season and a fruitful January transfer window which made the play-0ffs and promotion a demand rather than a hopeful prospect.

Over the past 18 months, Rosenior (and Ilicali, to his credit) have restored the feeling at Hull City, but this has been torn apart after what the owner judges as a failure (which it isn’t, really) to miss out on the play-offs.

For Hull City, a summer of more heavy investment is surely on the cards, with their budget potentially being boosted by the sales of top talents Jaden Philogene and Jacob Greaves. This *should* contribute to their continued growth, but a big manager appointment is pending when really, there was no need for Ilicali and the board to put themselves in such a tricky position as Rosenior was more than capable of eventually seeing out the objective of sealing promotion back to the Premier League.

As for Rosenior, this experience at Hull (like the one at Derby County) will prove invaluable for his growth as a head coach. He’ll bounce back in no time and it would not be a surprise if a few Football League clubs have already given him a call…

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